There is a lot written about employee engagement and how it should be done, but for me it needs to start with simple principles and Acas gives a good place to start with four elements to engaging your employees effectively:
- Line management
It is worthwhile considering each one of these carefully because for each of them there is a lot to be learned.
In order to engage people in the operation of an organisation they have to be connected with its purpose and the person most connected with the organisation’s purpose must be its leader. So the primary duty of the leaders of an organisation is to communicate the company’s vision to its employees in a way that engages them and makes them want to take part in it. This communication of the vision is a constant process. None of us work well in a vacuum so we need to be regularly updated on progress and how things are changing.
The flip side of this top-down communication is the need for leaders to demonstrate that they value what their employees are doing. This will involve listening to staff - their achievements and their concerns - when things go right and wrong. Again, none of us like working in a vacuum and we need to feel that someone is appreciating what we do.
Line management is a hugely important element in a company. In anything but the smallest organisation the majority of staff have very little contact with senior managers on a day-to-day basis but they should be in regular communication with their line manager. So the line managers have a big effect on the every-day experiences of the staff. Bad line managers can do untold damage in their sphere of influence, causing dissatisfaction, dis-engagement and increasing staff turnover. So to increase employee engagement it is important to find out if those staff/manager relationships are working well. Line managers should be empowering staff rather than controlling them. They should have a grasp of how to use soft skills to motivate their staff. This of course has to happen throughout a company - all the way up to the top, because all parts of company are interconnected. So it is very important to have line managers who are effective at both motivating their staff and defending them when necessary.
The people on the ground in an organisation know first-hand what works and what doesn’t. If you can harness this knowledge you get better innovation and decision making. So giving staff a voice to communicate their concerns and ideas in some way can help the company and at the same time it is a huge motivator for the employees. If their concerns are being listened to and changes are happening that improve the way the company works then they will truly feel valued.
The values of a company’s leaders will always be disseminated down through an organisation. If leaders have integrity and make good on their promises they will build up trust from their staff. Leaders must set good examples in how they deal with people and the quality of work they require. They need to be sure to practice what they preach. Values that are put together in a management meeting and then just stuck on the wall make a poor impression. Initially they will be treated with scepticism, and later ignored or held up to ridicule if management is seen not to live up to them.
So if you want to improve productivity and engagement in your company these four principles are a good place to start.